Chen returns to Michigan with an optimistic outlook

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T.C. Chen, pictured in 1994, will make his second Champions Tour start this week at the U.S. Senior Open.
July 11, 2012
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

LAKE ORION, Mich.- Twenty-seven years later, the hurt is finally gone. T.C. Chen can look back at the 1985 U.S. Open philosophically and say he produced some of the very finest golf of his life -- including one of the most memorable shots in major championship history -- and another shot, less effective but no less unforgettable. Both of those shots by Chen still resonate in these parts and throughout golf nearly three decades later.

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Chen is back in Oakland County, Mich., for this week's U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Golf and Country Club. The classic Indianwood design is 19 miles north of Oakland Hills Country Club, where the world of golf first encountered Chen on a global scale at the 1985 U.S. Open. Then 27, Chen, an unknown native of Taiwan, produced four stunning days of golf on the Monster, the south course at Oakland Hills.

In the opening round, Chen recorded the first double-eagle ever in U.S. Open history when his second shot on the par-5 second hole went into the hole. That gave him a lead he maintained and extended through 58 holes. Then it happened.

Tze-Chung Chen instantly became Two-Chip Chen. A double-hit from heavy rough at the front right of the fifth green -- and a subsequent penalty -- led to a quadruple-bogey 8. It not only changed the complexion of the U.S. Open but also the course of one man's professional golf career.

"I know somebody will ask me about the two-chip," said Chen, speaking through his son, Jason, who is his caddie this week. "The two-chip at that time probably bother me a lot for a while, but not anymore right now.

"Without the double hit probably nobody (would) know who I am right now. So maybe double hit made me more famous."

And, at the same time, infamous.

Oakland Hills is a treasure in American golf. It is where golf history was authored by Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, the game's legends, and others. It is where great golf -- and often unexpected results -- is on display. Chen made his own piece of history on the South Course and in the process added his name to golf lore. Today, a double-hit is known, affectionately, as a T.C. Chen. Anywhere and everywhere there are golfers in tune with the game's history, T.C. Chen means one thing and one thing only. The dreaded double hit.

Chen fought back gamely in the final round of the 1985 U.S. Open before eventually finishing second to Andy North at Oakland Hills.

On Tuesday, after a practice round at Indianwood, Chen and his son returned to Oakland Hills where they were greeted pleasantly by members and staff. It was an exciting and emotional trip for the golfer, his son said.

"We drove around the front nine in a cart," Jason said. "My father said the course has changed. A lot of trees are not there. The bunkers are very deep."

Chen did not hit any shots at the second hole but he did walk to the back tee, and looked out into the fairway. At the fifth hole, Chen dropped a ball at the site of his famous misplay.

"He got it on the green," Jason said. " No double-chip."

A video of the famous shot is on Chen's Facebook page, a sign that there are no lingering disappointments.

Chen, 54, qualified for the U.S. Senior Open in Pasadena, Calif., and this will be his second Champions Tour event. He played in the 2008 Senior British, shot 80-77 and missed the cut.

Chen continued to play on the PGA TOUR until 1990 before returning home to play in Japan and Asia. His emphasis was in Japan until he turned 50. He's been trying to play on the Champions Tour the past three seasons.

"Just couldn't get in," he said. "It's very tough to get in here, they are so good."

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He began preparing for the Champions Tour for several seasons before turning 50 but his progress was set back by fitness issues (surgery on his wrist) which cost him about 18 months. Chen has a home in California, where his family lives while he's touring in Asia.

Chen continues to his quest as a professional golfer because he enjoys it and the competitive juices continue to flow. Besides, there are some things he wants to experience and savor again.

"You know, the double eagle, I did not even see the ball go in the hole because the No. 2, it was uphill," Chen said.

Jason Chen has heard the stories of the double eagle -- and the double hit.

"Growing up I saw videos, news and media," said Jason, who was three years old when his father almost conquered the Monster. "I even went to Wikipedia to search about my dad.

"The double chip, everybody knows about it. And like he said, it's what made him more famous.

Jason Chen is looking forward to the week at Indianwood.

"It's really awesome because I've only caddied for him in the qualifiers and in some tournaments in Taiwan, but never in this kind of big stage as the U.S. Senior Open," Jason Chen said. "To be here, maybe have a chance to walk him through four days of the tournament. It's going to just be awesome to be next to him this year, and maybe even next year, too."

Champions Tour Insider Vartan Kupelian is a freelance contributor for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. He can be reached at [golfstix@aol.com]

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